CLIFTON PARK — The athletes representing Section II at the boys' state swimming and diving meet this weekend at the Nassau County Aquatic Center have had three weeks to prepare their minds and bodies looking to swim their fastest times of the year.
They have been practicing, swimming, perfecting their individual strokes and storing up energy looking to explode off the starting blocks Friday.
The combination of lowering the daily amount of laps and providing longer rest periods prior to the state meet in swimming is called 'tapering.'
"It’s like filling a piggy bank," Shenendehowa coach Chuck Dunham said. "You're storing that energy, saving up, feeding that piggy bank every day a little bit more, little bit more, little bit more. Then, hopefully, you can drop the hammer at states and crack that whole thing open."
Plainsmen seniors Zach Lassetter and Alex Fabris are both returning to the state meet for their final time and embraced the preparation for their final high school meet.
"Taper really conditions your body to take it out harder than you usually do, maintain that throughout the weekend and feel good," Lassetter said. "It's a strange phenomenon, but it's tried and tested. Every year, you just have to trust that taper, trust that training and know that you are going to be alright."
Lassetter is seeded 14th in the 100-yard backstroke and 28th in the 200 individual medley. Fabris is seeded 29th in the 100 freestyle and 62nd in the 200 freestyle. Both seniors will also be a part of Shenendehowa's 200-medley relay and 200 freestyle relay entries.
Five other Plainsmen qualified for the state meet and started their state meet prep three weeks ago, one week earlier than usual.
New York State moved the event to a later date in the calendar due to winter sports starting a week later than normal. Section II chose to keep its season-ending championship meet prior to the February break, giving the local state meet qualifiers three weeks to prepare.
"It's tough mentally as much as it is physically," Dunham said. "You are losing three-quarters of your team.
"You can have the seven greatest guys in the history of our program, but after three weeks of being in the water with each other, it's tough."
Dunham broke things up with a home-and-home competition with Niskayuna in the middle of the second week of the state practices.
"Those two days kind of lit a fire under boys from both programs," Dunham said. "It was a good opportunity in a good environment to race, push each other a little bit and face some competition ahead of time."
Fabris is ready to fire off the starting blocks this weekend after trusting the process.
"You have all this pent up energy saved up and for that one weekend, bam, you let it all out," Fabris said. "We've had meets during the season where we've had a ton of yardage right before and you can tell. We do not feel as good as we do after tapering."
SWIMMERS TO WATCH
TJ BEAROR (QUEENSBURY)
The Spartan senior is the No. 1 seed in the 50 freestyle with his 20.74 second All-America consideration time. A top time on Friday or Saturday below 20.60 will earn him an automatic All-America award. He is also the No. 2 seed in the 100 freestyle at 46.09.
BRYCE HENKEL (ALBANY ACADEMY)
The senior swimmer is the No. 4 seed in the 200 freestyle event at 1:41.46 and the No. 9 seed in the 100 butterfly at 50.98.
BRAYDEN HENKEL (ALBANY ACADEMY)
The Cadet freshman is the No. 12 seed in the 100 breaststroke, and a top-10 finish Friday would place him in the "A" final, a feat for any freshman swimmer. He is ranked 52nd in the 200 individual medley. Look for him to move up.
JOEY CHIARELLA (BETHLEHEM)
The Eagles senior is the No. 6 seed in the 200 freestyle at 1:41.74. With Bryce Henkel on the nearby starting block, look for both to make the "A" final and swim towards an All-America consideration at 1:40.23 or a potential All-America time of 1:38.52. Chiarella is the No. 19 seed in the 100 butterfly at 52:04.
MAX KABACH (BETHLEHEM)
The Bethlehem sophomore is the No. 7 seed in both the 200 individual medley at 1:54.75 and the 100 backstroke at 51.97 seconds.
ALBANY ACADEMY (200 MEDLEY RELAY)
The Cadet foursome is seeded No. 25, disqualified during the Section II preliminary swim despite having the second-best time in Section II during the year. Look for Albany Academy to enter the event with something to prove and move up into striking distance into Saturday's finals.
Swimming preliminaries begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday with finals set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The state diving meet will begin at 1 p.m. Friday.